Category Archives: dance

This is Humid-o-We’en

So I dutifully kept my heart rate pretty moderate during tonight’s performance, but it was still so humid I finished up looking like I’d gone for a swim o.o

Dripping in the Green Room

Also, I just realized that my scars add a dimension of realism to the Sparkle Zombie get-up XD

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The Weirdness of Actually Liking This Body

We dancers are notoriously critical of our bodies—sometimes in unhealthy ways, but also sometimes in realistic ways.

I, for example, am way scrawny compared to the vast majority of Pilobolus guys, but a Clydesdale—really, more a Welsh cob —if you toss me in with the guys from ABT. In short (or tall), different companies require different bodies. ABT favors a lean, clean aesthetic. Pilobolus needs strength. The Bolshoi wants powerful, flexible jumpers.

I wrestle with those things, as one does—with the question, when I’m auditioning, of “Does this body fit this company or gig?” I’ll continue to face that on a regular basis as long as I’m working in dance and circus. I’m okay with that.

That, however, isn’t what this post is about.

Rather, it’s about finally looking at myself in a full-length mirror and thinking,”Yeah, okay. is my body.”

I didn’t grasp how very much my moobs got in the way of that, nor to what degree there would be this sharp before/after scenario. Before, I looked and I saw moobs. After, I look and I see this compact, well-knit boy with really nice shoulders (thanks, ballet!).

To an extent, it’s still startling because I expected things to just look a bit weird for a while after surgery. I was prepared for that and okay with it. I mean, I guess the surgical tape and Post-Op Pasties™ look a little weird, but they look like they’re applied to a body that’s, like, just there. No big bruises or anything.

In that same vein, I’ve begun to forget it that it once felt awkward—mentally, that is—to rest a hand on my chest in bed. The skinflaps were always there, waiting to remind me. Now they’re not.

At the Burn this year, I found myself feeling—well, not quite envious, but wistful I guess, over M’s smooth, tight chest and his lovely little pink nipples. It didn’t occur to me that I’d wind up similarly equipped after the skinflaps went, though maybe it should have? I mean, did I my nipples were going to turn purple or what? Yet, still, I feel like I got so much more than I had expected.

Even the scars, where the tape has begun to peel, are mostly ultra-thin. I’m not sure if my surgeonwas extra careful because I’m a dancer and the appearance of my body is a career asset, whether I was just really to work on, or if he’s just always this good. Regardless, I’m immensely grateful.

And tonight I looked at all of myself, stark naked, in the mirrored shower door and I thought, really for the first time in my life, “Yeah, okay. That’s pretty good. That’s pretty nice.”

I’m not going say I’ve lost the voice that says, “You have more than 4 percent fat. You suck.” Maybe it’ll leave, maybe it won’t, but it’s still there now.

But another part of me, on the other hand, finally feels it can speak up with confidence.

Like I don’t have to secretly dread petit allegro because things might shift around and get awkward.

Like when I walk down street the in that flimsy orange tank top and a guy looks at me, I don’t have to look away or shut him down because I think he wouldn’t like me with my clothes off.

Like whenever I get to dance with a smart, hot guy like M again, I won’t do it half afraid he’s going to run his hands down my chest and think, “WTF?”
Like I won’t have to take my contacts out, maybe, to stop me catching sight of myself in the giant closet door mirrors when D and I are playing around in bed because it might make me think, “WTF?”

Eventually, of course, I’ll get used to this actually being my body. Right now, though, it’s rather a marvelous little mystery all my own; a prayer answered slowly but beautifully.

I know it’s not like this for everyone, and I’m grateful, too, for the sheer simplicity of my feelings about all of this. It’s pretty much an unalloyed good in my life.

So me for tonight. Time to sleep.

In Which I Revisit An Important Concept

(…Or, “Hey, what do you know, maybe knowledge really is power!”)

I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before.

I’ve been looking stuff up on the internet since I was a kid. I should know how this works by now! Got a weird question? Pretty sure you don’t know anyone who can answer it? Ask Dr. Google!

Anywho, I’ve been fretting over the deep details of What Is Going On With My Chest, and what should make me worry, and what shouldn’t, etc. For some reason, however, it didn’t occur to me until this morning to just, like, look it up.

Even though research is, like, kind of my jam[1]?

  1. Or, like, my tertiary jam, close on the heels of dance and circusing. But, like, if this was a horse race, research would definitely still be in the money.

So, needless to say, this morning I decided to apply my research-fu to my involved questions about the whole healing process … and, actually, I found really good answers from legit sources (being able to identify legit sources is an important skill, you guys).

Basically, the problem has been not the what, but the why (and how):

  • Why can’t I put my hands in the air like I don’t care?
  • Why can’t I lift things?
  • Why, from a physiological perspective, are those things bad ideas right now?
  • How could they impact the healing process (and, more importantly, are they going to make my nipples, like, fall off or something????!!!)?
  • How can I prevent myself from screwing everything up?

Anyway, I now understand what’s going on physiologically, which will make it a lot easier to remember not to do things.

I find it very helpful to have that extra data point—it not only strengthens the synaptic connections associated with the information in question, but adds a degree of motivational magic.

Basically, a really strong motivator can, to a degree, sometimes curb my impulsive nature[2]. The challenge is finding a motivator that’s stronger than the motivators that lead me to do dumb stuff.

  1. Works best in combination with Adderall, admittedly.

The motivation to make sure that all this surgical stuff heals as well and as quickly as possible is very powerful, but not terribly specific.

The specific knowledge of what’s going on under my skin and what I’m avoiding by following my surgeon’s instructions is really very helpful: it adds a layer of information that makes it more likely that the motivator, “Don’t eff up your surgery” will win in one of those momentary battles between impulses.

On the upside, I’m now past the point of greatest danger of really crazy outcomes (like my nipples actually going necrotic and sloughing off, for example o_O) … which is good, because the first thing I did upon halfway waking this morning was stretch, and although I stopped myself immediately, it made me feel a wee bit panicky. I also got fed up with my compression dressing in the middle of the night, woke up, and took the freaking thing off.

Turns out that I don’t really need to worry about either of those things too much—just keep an eye on things as always, but they probably haven’t done any real damage to the healing process. I’m doing a pretty good job behaving myself, and the nipple-aureola complexes should pretty much have made themselves at home at this point, having been significantly disturbed during surgery but taking only about a week to establish themselves again. They’ll be back to normal resiliency within a couple more weeks.

Anyway, I’m feeling much better now.

So, basically, I have yet again discovered the age-old principle of alleviating concerns by increasing understanding.

Um. Go me? Yay?

In other news, maybe I should also Google, “How the heck do I get all this freaking medical adhesive off my skin?” (Edit: Yup, I Googled it. Evidently, acetone—the main ingredient in nail polish remover—will do the trick. Going to give that a try in a bit.)

~

PS: I am working on Saturday—a wee bit of low-intensity ambient dancing. It will be an interesting challenge to see what I can accomplish without raising either my heartbeat or my arms 😀

Back From The Back of Beyond

I’m back from the Desert now, and catching up on life. Today was my first full day home, and I hit it hard—did a bunch of administrative life stuff, then booked it out to a 3-hour rehearsal.

Speaking of which, now that my name’s on the official cast list (or, as Autocorrupt suggests, “the official cat list”) I feel like I can stop being silent about one thing, anyway!

Cirque Louis: Kaleidoscope

I’m seriously stoked about the fact that we’re performing in the Bomhard, which is one of my two favorite local theaters.

Sadly, I missed our headshot shoot (it got moved), so my headshot won’t be in the program, but it’ll be on the website. I’m performing on hammock in this show, in addition to other things, which is pretty exciting. It’s like silks for trapeze people 😀 There will, of course, also be dancing.
Rehearsal today went really well. I’m excited about working with this cat … I mean, cast … and I’m rather a fan of our AD.

That’s it for now. Insanely busy week this week, and next week will be huge if Irma doesn’t completely destroy Fort Lauderdale.

How to Get a Dancer’s Body: Two Strategies*

I: The Slow-and-Steady Approach

  1. If you don’t live in a locality with a good professional company, move to one
  2. Go to performances. Identify a dancer whose body you wouldn’t mind having.
  3. Find a teacher. No, not a dance teacher; that takes way too long. I’m talking about a teacher of the obscure occult arts.
  4. Gather such materials as you may require: the black goat, newts’ tongues, and rooster’s egg may be difficult to source in urban areas.
  5. Using the materials and methods  already acquired, become incorporeal.
  6. Once you have become incorporeal, locate your chosen dancer and cause him or her to become incorporeal as well.
  7. Take over the body of the dancer in question.
  8. Congratulations! You now have a dancer’s body.

II: The “Ain’t Nobody Got Time For That” Approach

  1. Start dancing. No, seriously, right now, to any kind of music or none.
  2. Are you dancing? Are you in your body? Congratulations! You now have a dancer’s body!

*for best results, attempt with tongue held firmly in cheek

So It Was National Dance Day

Rather ironically, I celebrated by mostly not dancing.
Well, there was some dancing, in the morning, before I headed for Mom’s. And my friends carried me down the hall to the door when I left.

Pilobolus Summer Workshop was beyond words—or, well, beyond words that I can find when I’m happily exhausted because I spent the week dancing and creating feeling and spent Friday night singing and drinking and dancing and talking and talking and talking…

Went to bed at 7 AM on Saturday. Woke up at 10:50 AM. My body didn’t feel tired, but I could tell my brain was tired.

Anyway, I’m rolling all this stuff around in my head. You leave Pilobolus’ workshop ready to work, but in need of some time to think.

Anyway, instead of writing, today I’ve been taking pictures. Here’s a few from today and a couple from the week for your enjoyment or what have you.

Me, standing in front of a closed windier in my childhood bedroom.

I realized tonight that this room no longer really belongs me, and I no longer really belong to it. ATM though it’s hard to explain what that means. Also, I kind of can’t believe this is my body. That is not hard to explain.

A late ray of sun slanting down through the variegated leaves of a small tree, with a house in soft focus behind.

“Glory be to G-d for dappled things…” —Gerard Manley Hopkins

Students from Pilobolus' Summer Workshop Week 2, 2017.

This is us: the surprisingly-cohesive little commune that was Week 2 in 2017.

Asher sitting down with garden plants in the background.

There was a lovely cool breeze this evening. I sat on the bench near the house and drank it in and was glad to be alive and to be tired.

Asher lying on the floor of the dorms at the workshop with other students in the background.

This was a rough moment: knowing we were all about to part ways. Hard to describe how much you can come to love a group of people when you’ve just spent a week learning to trust them to hold you, guide you, and lift you high into the air.

A woven basket hangs on the outside wall of a garage flanked by mature plantings.

This basket has been hanging on the garage for a long time. I’ve photographed it before, in fact. The light was so beautiful that i couldn’t resist.

Pilobolus: Initial Thoughts (on Day 3)

Just a couple of wee thoughts. We’re working so much and dancing so much and talking so much and just living together so much that I’ve been spending my alone time just reading and breathing.

Anyway, this intensive has been amazing for so many reasons, not least because it has put me in touch with feelings I haven’t really addressed in a long time.

First, it has forced me to very directly face my difficulty approaching people. Every day this week, we’ve spent the morning doing exercises with one partner or set of partners, then repeating or iterating them with another, then another.

I hadn’t realized how much it still freaks me out to choose partners. Yesterday I got seriously rattled by it—but I actually mentioned it to the person who chose me, and they helped me through that moment. It was amazing.

I realize I’ve been feeling like, “This person or that person probably doesn’t want to work with me,” which isn’t fair either to them or to myself. That’s their call. I shouldn’t try to make it for them.

Second, I’ve realized that one of the things I love so much in dance, and especially in this kind of dance, is the giving and receiving of touch in an atmosphere of deep trust.

To do the work we’re doing here, you need to touch your partners and you need to trust them. Somehow, the process we’re working with creates an atmosphere of immense trust. We are all safe here in each-other’s arms (or feet, or whatever).

I came to this understanding by a circuitous back route. There’s one guy here who I kept desperately wanting to work with—to dance with. I wanted to feel his arms around me and his body against mine, but in a way that wasn’t about sex [1].

  1. Or, well, mostly wasn’t.

I kept trying to figure out why (leaving out the fact that he’s beautiful in a very unique way) and finally I realized that it’s the way he partners: he’s solid and steady, and when he holds anyone—anyone—in his arms, you can feel the power and the tenderness of that connection from across the room.

I’ve worked with him a couple of times now. In one piece, I caught him and sank to the ground holding him in my arms (in that particular dance, he had just died). 

It was an incredibly powerful moment. I’m not sure how to explain it, except to say that in that moment he trusted me with his body, and that trust felt like a sacred thing.

But also it just felt so damned good: just a human body touching my human body, which is so strangely important, without any need to be afraid or guarded or aggressive. 

Rather the opposite: the dance involved me catching his wrist as he took a slow backwards fall, pulling him into my arms and collapsing to the ground with him. I couldn’t be afraid or guarded or aggressive; I had to be fast and strong, but soft. I had to get both of us to the floor without anybody getting hurt.

I don’t know how to explain how that feels, but it’s pretty incomparable.

Today there was a dance in which a girl trusted me to catch her mid-flight, redirect her momentum, and throw her halfway across the room; in which I trusted her to pull me straight to the ground out of an arabesque as I pulled her to her feet. That felt incredible. There aren’t many places where you get to feel that kind of thing.

Anyway, that’s it for now. The creative process here never ceases to amaze me. Groups of dancers who had, for the most part, never met a few days back are, each afternoon, creating dances I’d happily pay to see, working in groups as small as two and as large as six, with only minimum input from our teachers.

That, too, is an amazing thing.

The Accidental Rest Day

I arrived home on Saturday, went out with friends on Saturday night, stayed out way too late, got up and went to class anyway on Sunday[1], and took a planned rest day on Monday.

  1. It was a surprisingly successful class, except for this one moment during which something crazy happened in the preparation for a renversé and I literally said, out loud, “What just happened?!” With that exception, I managed to remember combinations and execute them with a fair degree of élan. I also spread the gospel of Bloch Pro Elastics by handing off the pair that’s too big for me to T, who immediately fell in love with them.

Unfortunately, in the midst of said planned rest day, D’s truck decided to fry its alternator again, which means he’s using the Subaru right now, and I’m Riding the Combat Express (which is, you guys, very different from Going Commando)—you know, hoofing it, with a side of bicycle. This (coupled with uncertainty about whether I’d need to be available in the morning to facilitate picking up the truck from the shop) resulted in Tuesday being an accidental rest day, which might not actually be a bad thing.

Today has been iffy. It’s not impossible to get to class without the car by any means, but it involves a different decision-making process with different criteria in the analysis.

One of them is: am I a sleep-deprived wack-job right now?

I am, predictably, having difficulty sleeping this week—partly because I never sleep well in the middle of summer, but also because physical exhaustion really helps with that whole sleep thing and I’m both still adapted to last week’s exercise load and not getting anywhere near as much exercise.

Anyway, last night I managed to get to sleep by midnight (not going to lie: better living through chemistry, there—a little Nyquil because I’ve either got a cold or am at present violently allergic to the universe). That said, I woke up at 4 AM and didn’t succeed in getting back to sleep until 8:30 AM. Not helpful.

Under the circumstances, I decided against spending 3 hours on the bus (round-trip) to make it to Killer Class, even though I normally would have done exactly that. I wasn’t particularly worried about actually killing myself in class. Rather, the idea of coping with humans and scheduling and bus transfers just seemed impossible.

Instead, I went back to sleep for a couple hours.

Anyway, I’m hoping things will work out so I can deposit D at Suspend, hit up evening class, then roll back down to Suspend for acro.

In the meanwhile, I’m doing the books and serving as a cat-rest—or, well, my right foot is serving as a headrest for the cat, who is sleeping on the footrest under my desk. It’s all very restful.

In other news, I’m off to Pilobolus on Saturday: I plan to leave right after Advanced Class and complete as much of the drive as possible on the first leg, so as to leave less driving for Sunday.

I’ve received the instructions for checking in to the dorms and so forth, so I’m feeling more relaxed about things. In a way, it’s very much like going to summer camp—you get a list of what to bring and what not to bring, details about how dorm rooms and room-mates are assigned (first-come, first-served and dancers’ choice, as it were).

My brain has been percolating choreographic ideas I might want to play with in Connecticut. I’m looking forward to working with a bunch of complete strangers, since it always results in interesting outcomes.

Anyway, that’s it for now. Back to Modern tomorrow; will probably take class Friday morning to make up for my generalized delinquency this week.

Until then, I’ll be here, being a pillow for the cat.

LexBallet Intensive 2017: Days 2 & 3

Tuesday, after a fairly hard conditioning class and a not-difficult-but-demanding technique class, we began learning variations.

Wednesday, after a very restorative conditioning class and a lovely technique class, we continued with them. 

The girls are doing the Swans’ entrance scene. There are only four of them, so they have a lot of ground to cover, but they already looked pretty great at Tuesday night’s brief “show ‘n’ tell” session.

Meanwhile, my variation (one of the many versions of Seigfried’s) is a challenge in the small studio even though there’s only one of me—it’s packed with big leapy bits, all of which seem to land me precariously close to the walls when I do them full-speed. Thus, I wind up doing a lot of marking and semi-marking. There seem to be a lot of walls in that studio.

Still, I was quite happy with the sauté arabesque-balancé-tombé coupé jeté sequence last night (it varies from the video we’re using as a model, which involves a bunch of revoltades, which I still am not sure how to do on purpose). Also feeling better about Bournonville jeté, although I still tend to jump through my arms. We worked on that a lot last night.

I couldn’t remember about 20 seconds of the version that C taught me (which doesn’t have tours in it), and since I was working with J last night, we subbed in some tours just because. They feel a lot better this year—I’m figuring out how to use a relaxed plié in grand allegro instead of hanging onto tension, which makes a huge difference.

To be honest, though, just having another year under my belt also makes a huge difference. I don’t have to think about choreography anywhere near as much: I’m better at remembering chains of steps, instead of individual steps. That makes a huge difference.

Likewise, even though we don’t get to do grand allegro anywhere near as often as I would like at home (especially since BW is in Europe for the summer), there are a lot more steps I can do without having to think about them at this point.

The most invaluable corrections this far have been as follows:

  • In saut de chat, focus on travel rather than on elevation (the elevation takes care of itself)
  • In Bournonville jeté, imagine leaping over a hurdle. This imparts the graceful ballon that makes it such a nice leap.
  • Also in Bournonville jeté, think about reaching forward with the arms, then opening them. This both looks better and prevents me from hyperextending my back and shoulders, which screws up the momentum of the jump and looks weird (though probably okay in modern contexts?).

The central thing I’m taking away from this intensive is that I need to focus on one idea:

FORWARD.

I used to ride a horse with whom the same basic principle applied. You had to ride him forward, or he would just slope lazily around and pretend he didn’t know from dressage.

The highlight of last night was when I came in way too hot on the first tombé-coupé and instead of the standard jeté, it turned into something spinny and impressive whose name I don’t know. It’s definitely a thing—I’ve seen it in other variations—I’m just not sure which thing. I’ll have to see if I can find it in Tarasov when I get home. 

Anyway, J said, “Ooh, that was fancy!” Sadly, since I’m not actually sure how to do that particular thing on purpose, I’ll just have to file it away for now (with revoltades) and save it for some future date.

Last year, I think I was a bit wary of speed and power. I was forever doing Albrecht’s variation as if I had a check-rein on: behind the motion, without abandon. I was too busy thinking about the steps and trying to be precise, and I was definitely a little afraid of running myself over.

This year, I feel like I’ve made friends with speed and power, and when I get out of my own way, I can harness them. Confidence goes a long way!

In other news, my adductors are pretty sore, which is okay, since they’re one of the bits that need to be stronger. My beats look better for it, though in class yesterday I kept doing jeté battu on the wrong foot (wtf?) and decided to just do plain jeté like everyone else. I should try breaking out the entrechats sixes today. Quatres were nice yesterday.

Anyway, I should go do my laundry. I’m not going to walk down there this time; it’s 3 miles round-trip.

Tonight we polish up the variations; tomorrow we get to show them off.

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